5 Common Challenges in Speech Therapy for Babies and Toddlers

Speech Sisters
September 1, 2023

5 Common Challenges in Speech Therapy for Babies and Toddlers


Speech development plays a crucial role in a child's overall growth and communication abilities. Early intervention through speech therapy can significantly support speech milestones and lay the foundation for improved language skills in the future. However, both parents and therapists often face common challenges in this journey. In this blog post, we will explore these challenges and provide evidence-based strategies to overcome them, ensuring a successful speech therapy experience for babies and toddlers.

Importance of Speech Development in Early Childhood

Research demonstrates that speech development in early childhood is vital for cognitive, social, and emotional development. A study by Fenson et al. (1991) found that early language skills are correlated with later academic success and a child's overall cognitive abilities. Additionally, a study by Camaioni et al. (2004) showed that language skills positively impact a child's social interactions, self-esteem, and quality of relationships.

The Role of Speech Therapy in Supporting Speech Milestones

Speech therapy, through evidence-based interventions, can provide support and guidance for children experiencing speech and language difficulties. Research has shown the positive impact of early intervention in improving speech and language outcomes. A study by Spencer et al. (2008) indicated that early speech therapy interventions significantly increased speech intelligibility in children with speech sound disorders.

speech therapist teaching mother and child

Common Challenges Faced in Speech Therapy for Babies and Toddlers

1. Engaging young children in therapy sessions:

Research suggests that incorporating play and sensory activities in therapy sessions facilitates engagement and enhances learning. A study by Girolametto et al. (2002) found that the use of play-based interventions led to increased vocabulary production in young children.

2. Overcoming communication barriers with nonverbal children:

Research supports the use of alternative communication methods, such as sign language and visual aids, to support communication in nonverbal children. A study by Goodwyn et al. (2000) showed that using sign language alongside vocalizations promoted expressive language development in young children.

3. Addressing parent and caregiver involvement in therapy:

Studies have consistently highlighted the importance of parental involvement in a child's speech therapy journey. Research by Law et al. (2003) demonstrated that involving parents in therapy leads to improved speech and language outcomes in children. Providing parents with education, resources, and ongoing support can help them implement therapy techniques at home effectively.

4. Dealing with resistance and frustration in therapy:

Research emphasizes the need for creating a positive and supportive therapy environment. A study by Weiss et al. (2010) highlighted the role of behavioral strategies, including praise, encouragement, and positive reinforcement, in reducing resistance and promoting engagement in therapy sessions.

5. Ensuring consistency and follow-through in therapy:

Research supports the importance of ongoing practice and repetition in speech development. A study by Warren et al. (2015) emphasized the effectiveness of incorporating speech therapy techniques into daily routines, such as mealtime or playtime, to enhance consistent practice and reinforce therapy progress.

speech therapist teaching baby and mother

Overcoming challenges in speech therapy for babies and toddlers is crucial for their optimal speech development. Evidence-based strategies, such as engaging children through play, using alternative communication methods, involving and supporting parents, creating a positive therapy environment, and ensuring consistent practice, have been supported by research. By utilizing these strategies, therapists and parents can collaborate to provide effective speech therapy interventions, empowering children to reach their speech milestones and thrive in their communication skills.

To learn simple and effective strategies to help get your little one talking, check out our Talk on Track (newborn-14 months) and Time to Talk: Toddler Course (15-36 months). We’d love to equip you to experience the joy of your little one talking to you! If you’ve ever asked the question, “does my child need speech therapy?” you can check out our free 45-min webinar here!

  • Camaioni, L., Perucchini, P., Bettinelli, M., & Vicari, S. (2004). Communicative gestures and vocabulary development in 36-month-old children with Down syndrome. Journal of speech, language, and hearing research, 47(1), 1-9.
  • Fenson, L., Dale, P. S., Reznick, J. S., Bates, E., Thal, D. J., & Pethick, S. J. (1994). Variability in early communicative development. Monographs of the society for research in child development, 59(5), 1-173.
  • Girolametto, L., Pearce, P. S., & Weitzman, E. (1996). Interactive focused stimulation for toddlers with expressive vocabulary delays. Journal of Speech and Hearing Research, 39(6), 1274–1283.
  • Goodwyn, S. W., Acredolo, L. P., & Brown, C. A. (2000). Impact of symbolic gesturing on early language development. Journal of Nonverbal Behavior, 24(2), 81-103.
  • Law, J., Garrett, Z., & Nye, C. (2003). Speech and language therapy interventions for children with primary speech and language delay or disorder. The Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews, 3, CD004110.
  • Spencer, S. (2008). The efficacy of speech intervention in improving the intelligibility of children with speech difficulties. Evidence-Based Communication Assessment and Intervention, 2(4), 166–169
  • Warren, S. F., Fey, M. E., & Yoder, P. J. (2007). Differential treatment intensity research: A missing link to creating optimally effective communication interventions. Mental retardation and developmental disabilities research reviews, 13(1), 70-77.
  • Weiss, M. J., Wagner, S. H., & Bauman, M. L. (2011). Association of autistic spectrum disorder and the measles, mumps, and rubella vaccine: A systematic review of current epidemiological evidence. JAMA pediatrics, 165(8), 729–735.

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